Protecting Palm Trees and The Planet with Palmear’s AI and Acoustics Technology

Palmear is revolutionising early pest detection with their real-time acoustic sensor and AI. With this technology farmers can assess the health of their tree through an audio scan to optimise  their pest response, saving palm tree populations and their vital role in climate change mitigation.

Palm trees’ iconic shapes are recognized globally; with their unique spider-like branches evoking imagery of tropical landscapes, relaxation and tranquility.  In addition to their aesthetics, they also boast practical, social and environmental benefits, which include providing food, shelter, medicine and craft materials, whilst also playing a pivotal role in forest ecology and biodiversity.

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There are around 2,600 species of palm trees with their origin traced back to Mesopotamian times, around 6,000 years ago. Since then they have flourished all over the world, with the highest concentration of palms found in Neotropical rainforests in the Americas, such as the Amazon. In the Amazon, palm trees are one of the most common tree species, with a Euterpe Precatoria (species of palm) population of around 5.2 billion.

Image 2: Source: Palmear camera

Despite their environmental and social contributions, they are at risk. Palm tree pests, known as weevils, are becoming more persistent as global temperatures rise, having detrimental effects on palm trees and their associated benefits. According to research, 30% of production from existing palm trees is at risk and could potentially be lost as a result of pests and disease.

Palm weevils, equatorial in distribution, are large beetles with hard tiny shells. The most destructive is the Red Palm Weevil, which attacks 40 different species of palm, and annually causes millions of dollars of economic loss worldwide.  A palm weevil infestation on palms is essentially a death sentence; “weevils have a 100% kill rate in 3 to 6 months unless treated”. 

Weevil larvae spend 80% of their life undetected, excavating holes up to more than one meter long in the trunk or the crown of the palm trees. It is not until the plant starts to die that farmers notice them, however at that point, it is too late and the tree has already collapsed and died. When the Red Palm Weevil is detectable, it is usually when the weevils are visible and are ready to leave the dying tree.

Image 3: Source: Palmear camera

Having a mass loss of palm trees would have hugely damaging impacts on a variety of levels; communities that rely on palm trees as a resource to support their livelihoods would be affected, as will the biodiversity that depends on them to provide habitats. In addition to this, palm trees play an important role in carbon sequestration, which is an essential process, especially as humanity tries to curb the worst effects of climate change caused by excess carbon dioxide emissions.

Palm trees’ carbon uptake varies depending on each species, with some sequestering large amounts of carbon such as date palms, which sequester around 200 kg of CO2 per year – it has been reported that planting one million date palm trees can absorb around 28.7 megatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually. In contrast to the date palm, Florida’s distinctive palm sequesters much less carbon, around 2.2 kg per year. However, despite the variation of carbon uptake from palm trees, their global abundance means that collectively they are responsible for sequestering huge amounts of carbon – this is particularly the case when considering the proportion of palm trees present in the Amazon.

Image 4: Source: Palmear camera

Palm trees are known to be morphologically and physiologically distinct from other trees. These differences not only contribute to carbon uptake but also the way forests respond to climatic events. The variation of sizes, shapes and arrangement of the trees helps promote biodiversity and ecological resilience to climate change.

Considering the benefits that palm trees bring socially, economically and environmentally, raises concerns surrounding their stability and the impacts of the weevil pest. Weevils’ persistence, invasiveness, ability to spread at a very high speed, and inability to detect are all factors threatening the future of palms. It can take around 5-15 years for a palm tree to be mature enough to take on a good quantity of CO2, therefore, preventative measures to protect the matured palm trees that exist should be a priority.

Image 5: Palmear solution

At Palmear, through the implementation of AI and acoustics technologies, farmers can easily detect the early onsets of pests such as the Red Palm Weevil in real time through Palmear’s mobile app. Palmear’s integrated Pest Management software platform allows governments to manage and control infestations on a national level.

Palmear’s technology benefits growers, governments and stakeholders by supporting the protection of farmer livelihoods, helping to safeguard biodiversity and promoting carbon sequestration by protecting palm trees before they are killed by pest infestation.

This technology offers a clear pathway in which palm trees can be protected and therefore, the vital roles they play socially, economically and environmentally.

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